Wedding Stories, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Life is funny sometimes, isn’t it? I had feared that my day of waiting for the car repair wouldn’t be very productive … and so it was hugely productive. I even had Wi-Fi access for much of the day! So I was able not only to draft stories, but to use online resources like GoogleBooks and Glossa to do some editing and fact-checking. (I’m eternally grateful to GoogleBooks for scanning Harold Johnston’s Private Life of the Romans, which is available at this link. At almost 110 years old, it’s a bit outdated in places, but it has a huge amount of useful information – including specialized Latin terminology for things related to Roman marriage that you’ll find in our current series of stories. Grātiās maximās tibi, Professor Johnston, et vōbīs, GoogleBooks team!)

Anyway, today we’ll look at the next story in the sequence about Valeria’s wedding to Vipsānius. I realized yesterday morning, while driving to drop off the car for service, that some of you lectōrēs cārissimī, who are familiar with the Big Three reading-method Latin textbooks, might be a bit concerned about a wedding-themed story. I’m thinking of one particular book, quem nōmināre nōlō, in which the wedding turns into a disaster because the bride is secretly in love with someone else … a really exciting and gripping story-line, and one of my students’ traditional favorites. But that’s not what will happen in the Tres Columnae stories.

I’m very fond of the Pyramus and Thisbe motif, but I must say I enjoy the ironic way that Ovid treats the story far more than I would a “straight-up” treatment. So no one will die horribly in Lectiō XXIV, I promise! Or I guess I should say, to be fair, that no one will die in our primary stories! If participants and subscribers want to create stories like that, they’re certainly welcome to do so … though, of course, we also reserve the right to edit and approve. In the primary story-line, though, I really don’t want any Teenage Relationship Drama; I get plenty of that whenever I talk with my face-to-face students and my almost-teenage daughter. 🙂

Anyway, in today’s story, which you can now find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki site, Caelia is dressing her daughter for the Big Day. I’m grateful, once again, to

  • Professor Johnston, quite posthumously, for reminding me about the tunica rēgilla and the nōdus Herculāneus, and that Hercules watches over married life (which, when you think of his problematic relationships with women, is rather ironic, isn’t it?)
  • Professors Lewis and Short, also quite posthumously, and via Glossa, for cofirming that cōmere is the verb you use for arranging hair in this context, that involvere is what you do with a flammeum, and that vīncīre applies to the nodus Herculāneus as it does to ordinary knots.

Here we go:

in ātriō domūs, Valeria togam suam praetextam exuit et tunicam rēgillam induit. Caelia crīnēs Valeriae in sex partēs hastā cōmit et vittīs retinet. tum Caelia, fīliam suam amplexa, “mihi laetandum est, Valeriōla mea, quod hodiē vespere iuvenī optimī nūbēs!” māterfamiliās, haec verba locūta, flammeō caput Caeliae involvit. tum, fīliam iterum amplexa, lacrimīs iterum sē trādit. Valeria, mātrem quoque amplexa, “ō mater mea,” inquit, “quaesō, amābō tē, nē lacrimēs! nōnne ego ipsa gaudeō? nōnne iuvenis optimus mē uxorem vespere dūcet? quaesō, amābō tē, nē lacrimās ita effundās!”

Caelia tandem lacrimās retinēre potest. Valeriam iterum amplexa, “ō fīlia,” inquit, “nōnne lacrimō quod laetissima sum? rēctē tamen dīcis: mihi haud lacrimandum est! haud decet mātrem diē nūptiārum fīliae lacrimāre! ōmina enim optima tibi praebēre dēbeō.” Caelia sē colligit et haec addit: “siste nunc, mea fīlia, et nōlī ita tē movēre! mē enim oportet nōdum Herculis vīncīre. difficile tamen est nōdum rīte vīncīre, cum sponsae nōn cōnsistunt!”

Valeria “ignōsce mihi, māter,” respondet, et statim cōnsistit. Caelia cingulum sūmit et nōdum Herculāneum perītē circum īlia fīliae vīncit. “heus,” sēcum putat, “nōnne tempus fugit? nōnne paucōs ante diēs māter mea nōdum Herculis mihi ita vīnxit?”

Valeria tamen, “māter mea,” subitō inquit, “cūr nodum vīncīre haesitās?” et Caelia “ignōsce mihi, fīlia mea,” respondet. “haestiābam enim, quod diem nūptiārum meārum in animō volvēbam.” Caelia nōdum cōnficit et “nunc iam,” inquit, “nōnne nōs decet precēs Herculī ipsī, quī mātrimōnia omnia custōdit, iam adhibēre?”

Valeria manum Caeliae prēnsat. tum māter fīliaque verba sollemnia prōnuntiant. haec verba locūtae, ambae ex ātriō ēgrediuntur rēs nūptiālēs parātum.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you happen to be a specialist in Roman wedding ceremonies, please let me know if there are any factual errors here! I think I’ve accurately depicted what we do know, but I’m always open to corrections. And, of course, the beauty of an online “text” like the Tres Columnae Project is that it’s easy to make such corrections – no expensive reprints, lists of errata and corrigenda, or economic decisions about new editions!
  • You can probably see that I was trying to strike a balance between “universal” emotional issues and culturally specific details in this story. And, of course, I’ve never been a bride myself, nor have I ever been the mother of a bride! So, how well does this story depict the “universal” emotions of Valeria and Caelia? That is, if you’ve been a bride (or the mother of one), can you see yourself in Valeria, Caelia, or both? And if not, what do we need to change?
  • How well does it depict the specific cultural details of Roman wedding preparations?
  • How is the balance? Is there too much of one or the other, or did we manage to get the balance “just right”?
  • And, most of all, does this story grab your attention and make you want to keep reading?

Tune in next time, when we’ll explore some other stories in the sequence. By the end of Lectiō XXIV, not only will we follow Valeria through her wedding day, but we’ll also witness

  • the servī et ancillae who are preparing for the wedding feast;
  • the nervous bridegroom, with his father and servants;
  • the recent wedding of Caius’ sister Lollia, in a flashback;
  • our friend Lucius’ response to Lollia’s wedding; and even
  • preparations for the weddings of two of your favorite mouse-children.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Please keep those comments and emails coming, and I look forward to seeing many of you this weekend in Winston-Salem, NC, for the 2010 American Classical League Institute.

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